Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Tale of Two Captains (5/27/08)

Kids in the '50s didn't realize what a Golden Age they were living in -- especially when it came to television programs. Once post-war parents realized they could use the boob tube as a babysitter, local television stations, desperate for programming, were more than happy to shanghai announcers and other station personnel, dress them as sailors, cops, sheriffs, and less-authoritative figures, and entertain the kiddies with cartoons and other features for hours on end.

What sparks this observation today is that June 27 marks another of those cosmic
coincidences of which we're so fond. On this date in 1927, Bob Keeshan was born, and in 1949, Captain Video and His Video Rangers made its debut on the DuMont Television Network.

Keeshan is best known as his televised persona,
Captain Kangaroo, the avuncular custodian of the Treasure House, whose regular visitors included Mr. Green Jeans, Mr. Moose, and Dancing Bear. Unlike most of the other kiddie-show hosts, Keeshan tried to use his show as a vehicle for education and entertainment, rather than just as a time-killer or a medium to sell toys.

Captain Video, on the other hand, was dedicated to distracting kids with thrilling interplanetary adventures which took place on cardboard sets with rudimentary special effects. Not to minimize the tribulations the good Captain had to endure, but depending on such actors as Arnold Stang, Tony Randall, and Jack Klugman to provide villainy might have been too much suspension of disbelief, even for children.

As adults, we'll always have fond memories of such worthies as
Engineer Bill, Sheriff John, Officer Joe Bolton, Jimmy Weldon and Webster Webfoot, and the numberless Bozo the Clowns who once beamed into our homes, providing us with hours of friendship and fun.

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